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Denzil_DC

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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 4,181

Journal Archives

Brexit's Irish Question

People, money, Ireland. These are the three big questions on which the immediate future of the Brexit project hinges. When European Union leaders meet in October, they will decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made in talks with the British to allow for the opening of substantive negotiations to determine the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU after it leaves in March 2019. As the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier put it last May:

I…made very clear that the [Irish] border issue will be one of my three priorities for the first phase of the negotiation. Together with citizens’ rights and the financial settlement. We first must make sufficient progress on these points, before we start discussing the future of our relationship with the UK.


By the border issue he means the question of whether a hard customs and immigration border is to be imposed between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

And so the Irish Question rises yet again, looming on the road to Brexit like the Sphinx on the road to Thebes. It threatens to devour those who cannot solve its great riddle: How do you impose an EU frontier across a small island without utterly unsettling the complex compromises that have ended a thirty-year conflict? The “people” part of the preliminary Brexit negotiations concerns the mutual recognition of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa. The “money” part concerns Britain’s outstanding obligations to the EU budget and the calculation of the final divorce bill. Both are awkward and politically divisive issues, but it should be perfectly possible to reach a settlement.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/09/28/brexits-irish-question/

Theresa May Takes Her Darkest, Most Desperate Turn Yet

It is one of the great ironies of Brexit that the United Kingdom’s messy divorce from Europe, sold as an effort to reclaim parliamentary sovereignty, has instead delivered its opposite. Last Monday, the House of Commons voted in the early stages of the European Union Withdrawal Bill to give the government sweeping powers to make laws without parliamentary scrutiny. These powers are named after Henry VIII, England’s most authoritarian monarch, but they in fact bear a greater resemblance to Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933, which allowed the Fuhrer to bypass the Reichstag and govern by proclamation.

Allusions to Nazi Germany are generally overwrought, but this is no exaggeration: Prime Minister Theresa May does not have an absolute majority in the British Parliament, just as Hitler didn’t in the Reichstag in 1933, which is why she has been forced to resort to his strategy. If the withdrawal bill is passed as it stands, May will be able to make laws by decree and reverse and adapt primary legislation without consulting Parliament. It is the greatest attack on the British constitution in at least a century. Parliamentary sovereignty—the very thing that Brexiteers said they were voting for in leaving the E.U.—may be about to be vastly reduced by a cabal of right-wing Conservatives who say they are obeying the people’s will. Such power grabs, of course, are always done in the name of the people. The full title of the 1933 Enabling Act was “The law to remedy the distress of the people and the state.”

The derangement of Theresa May’s minority government in the United Kingdom is something to behold, and it is also more than a little frightening. Even in the America of Donald Trump, there has not yet been any real attempt, save a few controversial executive orders, to strip Congress of its powers. But in Britain—the Mother of Parliaments, according to the Victorian reformer John Bright—we stand idly by as May attempts to neutralize our elected representatives. It seems incredible to me that I am reporting on this, but even more alarming is that there is so little concern expressed by the majority of the press and the generally acquiescent BBC. The point is that after the referendum last year, and despite the poor result in the General Election, the right-wing of the Conservative Party has continued traveling in an increasingly undemocratic direction and has, so far, swept all before it. The normally rather sober Hansard Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and strengthening democracy, has called the “broad scope of the powers in the Bill, the inadequate constraints placed on them, and the shortcoming in the proposed parliamentary control of them” a “toxic mix” that will undermine Parliament’s ability to hold May to account or to meliorate the most damaging policies arising from Brexit.

MPs are so caught up in the madness of Brexit that, for the most part, they cannot see the power grab for what it is. Fears are expressed and noble speeches given but in the dead of night on Monday, MPs voted by 326 to 290, giving May an effective majority of 36. This included seven members of the Labor opposition, who astonishingly defied their party, which has just begun to soften its line on Brexit so as to accommodate increasing worries about the economy, employment and workers’ rights. These seven Labor members—Ronnie Campbell (age 74), Frank Field (75), Kate Hoey (71), Kelvin Hopkins (76), John Mann (57), Dennis Skinner (85) and Graham Stringer (67) have an average age of 72, which underlines a truth about the Brexit vote and the lurch to the right in Britain. They are the product of something profound going on among an older generation, even among some left-wingers. These people yearn for a past that does not exist and they do not give one solitary damn for the future of young people who will be forced to inherit the economic mess.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/09/theresa-may-takes-her-darkest-most-desperate-turn-yet


X-posted in Editorials & Other Articles

Theresa May Takes Her Darkest, Most Desperate Turn Yet

It is one of the great ironies of Brexit that the United Kingdom’s messy divorce from Europe, sold as an effort to reclaim parliamentary sovereignty, has instead delivered its opposite. Last Monday, the House of Commons voted in the early stages of the European Union Withdrawal Bill to give the government sweeping powers to make laws without parliamentary scrutiny. These powers are named after Henry VIII, England’s most authoritarian monarch, but they in fact bear a greater resemblance to Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933, which allowed the Fuhrer to bypass the Reichstag and govern by proclamation.

Allusions to Nazi Germany are generally overwrought, but this is no exaggeration: Prime Minister Theresa May does not have an absolute majority in the British Parliament, just as Hitler didn’t in the Reichstag in 1933, which is why she has been forced to resort to his strategy. If the withdrawal bill is passed as it stands, May will be able to make laws by decree and reverse and adapt primary legislation without consulting Parliament. It is the greatest attack on the British constitution in at least a century. Parliamentary sovereignty—the very thing that Brexiteers said they were voting for in leaving the E.U.—may be about to be vastly reduced by a cabal of right-wing Conservatives who say they are obeying the people’s will. Such power grabs, of course, are always done in the name of the people. The full title of the 1933 Enabling Act was “The law to remedy the distress of the people and the state.”

The derangement of Theresa May’s minority government in the United Kingdom is something to behold, and it is also more than a little frightening. Even in the America of Donald Trump, there has not yet been any real attempt, save a few controversial executive orders, to strip Congress of its powers. But in Britain—the Mother of Parliaments, according to the Victorian reformer John Bright—we stand idly by as May attempts to neutralize our elected representatives. It seems incredible to me that I am reporting on this, but even more alarming is that there is so little concern expressed by the majority of the press and the generally acquiescent BBC. The point is that after the referendum last year, and despite the poor result in the General Election, the right-wing of the Conservative Party has continued traveling in an increasingly undemocratic direction and has, so far, swept all before it. The normally rather sober Hansard Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and strengthening democracy, has called the “broad scope of the powers in the Bill, the inadequate constraints placed on them, and the shortcoming in the proposed parliamentary control of them” a “toxic mix” that will undermine Parliament’s ability to hold May to account or to meliorate the most damaging policies arising from Brexit.

MPs are so caught up in the madness of Brexit that, for the most part, they cannot see the power grab for what it is. Fears are expressed and noble speeches given but in the dead of night on Monday, MPs voted by 326 to 290, giving May an effective majority of 36. This included seven members of the Labor opposition, who astonishingly defied their party, which has just begun to soften its line on Brexit so as to accommodate increasing worries about the economy, employment and workers’ rights. These seven Labor members—Ronnie Campbell (age 74), Frank Field (75), Kate Hoey (71), Kelvin Hopkins (76), John Mann (57), Dennis Skinner (85) and Graham Stringer (67) have an average age of 72, which underlines a truth about the Brexit vote and the lurch to the right in Britain. They are the product of something profound going on among an older generation, even among some left-wingers. These people yearn for a past that does not exist and they do not give one solitary damn for the future of young people who will be forced to inherit the economic mess.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/09/theresa-may-takes-her-darkest-most-desperate-turn-yet

Girl, 7, finds 4ft SWORD in same lake where King Arthur was said to have hurled Excalibur



A seven-year-old girl stumbled across a 4ft sword in the same lake where King Arthur's Excalibur was said to have been thrown.

Matilda Jones was paddling waist-deep in Dozmary Pool in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, when she came across the blade while on a family holiday.

The lake is said to be the spot where legendary medieval leader King Arthur is said to have returned Excalibur after being fatally wounded in the Battle of Camlann.

Ironically, dad Paul Jones, 51, had recounted the famous folklore of King Arthur to Matilda and her four-year-old sister Lois just before the recovery.



http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/girl-7-finds-4ft-sword-11106508


SPOILER: The dad reckons that the sword's probably only about 30 years old (if that, judging by the pics above).

It does give me an excuse to post an antidote to my other very depressing post about Twitter abuse by linking to these fun threads:

https://twitter.com/TechnicallyRon/status/904761506860027905

TechnicallyRon ✔ @TechnicallyRon

OK this girl now rules Britain. Those are the rules. There are books about this. Send her to Number 10 immediately. https://twitter.com/4danlopez/status/904693033391837184
Dan Lopez @4danlopez

Schoolgirl pulls 4ft sword from Cornish lake https://buff.ly/2iTTYUd


Includes the inevitable

Unsocial Media: Tracking Twitter Abuse against Women MPs

“I’ve had death threats, I’ve had people tweeting that I should be hung if ‘they could find a tree big enough to take the fat bitch’s weight’… I’ve had rape threats…and n*gger, over and over and over again”
Diane Abbott, UK MP and Shadow Home Secretary, July 2017

Diane Abbott’s testimony during a recent parliamentary debate about intimidation against members of parliament (MPs) was the first time many people heard the extent of sexist and racist abuse facing women in UK politics. But for women MPs who are active on social media platforms, these harmful encounters are something they must contend with daily.

At Amnesty, we’ve been investigating the extent of online abuse against women MPs active on Twitter in the UK through individual interviews and by using machine learning to detect abusive tweets sent to women MPs. The findings outlined in this post provide a detailed look at abuse on Twitter in the run-up to the 2017 election — in which Diane Abbott’s case stands out for all the wrong reasons.

...

While online abuse is certainly not limited to women in the public eye, women politicians face an extraordinary amount of abuse on social media. To understand just how much abuse women MPs face online we worked with a data scientist to analyse a sample of Twitter data from 1 January to 8 June, with a focus on the six weeks prior to the 8 June UK election. We wanted to understand how many of the tweets sent to women MPs were abusive, whether some MPs were targeted more than others and if there were trends in such targeting.

...



http://preview.tinyurl.com/y9lftktk

(TinyURL given above because DU won't render the full link correctly, which is: https://medium.com/@AmnestyInsights/unsocial-media-tracking-twitter-abuse-against-women-mps-fc28aeca498a)

Scotland: Queensferry Crossing across the Firth of Forth opens to traffic

Britain’s newest road bridge, suspended by 23,000 miles of cables over the Firth of Forth, has opened with motorists facing long delays.

At 1.6 miles (2.7km), the Queensferry Crossing is the longest bridge of its type in the world and, at 210m (689ft) high, Britain’s tallest, say its designers. For motorists, only one thing will matter: the new crossing promises a queue-free drive home at motorway speeds.

The first cars drove over the bridge shortly before 2am on Wednesday after traffic was diverted from the Forth Road Bridge. A long procession followed police vehicles, with many honking their horns and blowing whistles as they crossed the bridge.

However, by rush-hour drivers were facing long delays in both directions. It is thought people simply wanting to experience the crossing for the first time were exacerbating the problem, with Traffic Scotland tweeting: “This is not just commuters heading for work” and “LOTS of you eager to cross & 40mph speed limit in place.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/aug/30/queensferry-crossing-firth-of-forth-to-open-to-traffic-edinburgh


This story's pretty typical of today's coverage of the opening to traffic of the Scottish Government's new, long-awaited Queensferry Crossing, near Edinburgh, built to relieve traffic stress on the old Forth Road Bridge which has been beset by age- and corosion-related problems for years.

The initial delays were predictable, with many sightseers joining the morning rush hour. Read down any of the media reports, and they may mention the scale of the bridge, its status as the longest bridge of its type - three-tower, cable-stayed - in the world, the UK's highest bridge, and the 23,000 miles of cable that make up its structure. It's a year late in opening and came in £245 million under budget.

Few of the articles will delve into the history of the project, which saw a Labour government refuse to fund it, and its initial cancellation amid cross-party opposition to it before the SNP took power at Holyrood and finally agreed that the Scottish Government would fund it itself and gave the go-ahead for construction to start six years ago.

It was dismissed at the time and in recent years by the usual suspects as an SNP "vanity project" - and much the same voices then pilloried the Scottish Government for not opening it sooner last year, when a serious structural problem closed the Forth Road Bridge for repairs over a prolonged period, leading to lengthy detours and chaos.

Now the likes of Gordon Brown are queuing up to laud it and take credit for it.

Whatever, it's a stunning example of modern architecture and engineering, already has iconic status, and is probably destined to be the most-photographed bridge in the UK, if not the world. Its opening means the Firth of Forth is spanned by three bridges built in successive centuries: the Forth Rail Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and now the Queensferry Crossing.










{Scottish Tory Leader} Davidson's mask slips over rogue Tories

Type the words “Ruth Davidson detoxified the Tories” into Google and you get 640,000 hits. This will come as little surprise, I suspect, to anyone who lives here and has endured the right-wing columnists’ love-in with the Scottish party leader over the last few years. Even when the Orange Order was batting its eyelids at her earlier this year, Davidson was touted as the purveyor of a more compassionate Conservatism, a moderating influence on her Westminster counterparts and the one figure capable of rehabilitating the tarnished brand north of the border.

Up to a point those commentators were right; the Scottish Tories did well in the local and general elections, gaining seats in both (though arguably this had more to do with Davidson’s decision to campaign on a No to a Second Indy Ref platform than her personal magnetism). But success can be a double-edged sword and so it has proved for Davidson. Unfortunately, the new intake of Conservative representatives included some loose cannons; and when I say loose cannons, I mean bigots.

Despite its putative transformation, the Scottish party’s toxicity level is once again soaring. Last week, two Stirling councillors, Robert Davies and Alastair Majury, suspended for posting racist and sectarian tweets, were reinstated on the basis of an apology so “unreserved” no-one outside the party was allowed to hear it.

Then – while that debacle was running its course – Moray MP Douglas Ross, a man already under fire for refusing to give up his job as a referee, told an online interviewer that, were he to be appointed Prime Minister for a day, his Number One priority would be tougher action against gypsies and travellers: two of the most marginalised groups in the country.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/dani-garavelli-davidson-s-mask-slips-over-rogue-tories-1-4543130


Finally, evidence of the Scottish Tories' new intake's toxicity reaches such levels that the MSM is distracted from complaining about the online antics of "cybernats" and the shine is quickly coming off the party's darling, touted by some as a future Scottish first minister, if not a UK prime minister.

Even so, this article merely scratches the surface of a party and leader that scrabbled together a tally of Scottish seats at the last UK election on the back of pandering to the sectarian Unionist fringe, aided and abetted by Scottish Labour.

MP Swinson under fire over 'vanishing' election costs

Jo Swinson, the deputy UK leader of the Liberal Democrats, is facing “serious questions” over her election expenses after thousands of pounds were left off her official declaration.

The East Dunbartonshire MP claimed her spending scraped in £210 below the legal limit in the party’s top Scottish target - but only after almost £7000 of costs were disregarded.

Despite the seat’s importance to the LibDems, the former minister said £2700 of leaflets and other material bought by the party went undelivered and so didn’t count toward her total.

A further £4,040 of costs were omitted on the basis it was “national” spending promoting the LibDems in general, rather than Ms Swinson as the local candidate.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15477703.MP_Swinson_under_fire_over___39_vanishing__39__election_costs/?ref=mrb&lp=19


Two aspects to this story: the (as far as I know unprecedented) idea that candidates can discount election spending if it's wasted (undelivered leaflets), and the conflating of national versus local spending (so familiar from the investigations of the Tory battlebus debacle after the previous general election).

And Swinson's not the only one, in Scotland alone, being investigated:

Christine Jardine: Second LibDem MP in row over 'vanishing' election expenses

...

Christine Jardine, who gained Edinburgh West in one of the toughest contests in the country, disregarded thousands of pounds of costs on her official candidate declaration.

Her party also sent local voters personalised mail which was not accounted for in her filing.

Despite the LibDems’ saturation campaign in Edinburgh West, with households inundated with leaflets, Ms Jardine claimed she ultimately spent less than her SNP rival.

This relied on her saying a third of her bill for election material was “national” spending, on the grounds it promoted the LibDems in general, rather than her as the local candidate.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15480552.Second_LibDem_MP_in_row_over___39_vanishing__39__election_expenses/

Brexit: Anti-immigrant prejudice major factor in deciding vote, study finds

Prejudice against immigrants from the European Union was a “major” deciding factor in the Brexit referendum, according to a new study.

But people who actually met foreigners living in Britain tended to have a positive experience and this appears to have helped persuade many people to vote Remain, the researchers found.

The results suggest that the Brexit campaign’s emphasis on immigration – dubbed “Project Hate” by the pro-EU camp – was politically astute.

...

Dr Meleady, of the University of East Anglia, said the figures showed prejudice against EU immigrants was a “major” deciding factor in the referendum, but it was unclear whether this would have swayed the result.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-racism-immigrant-prejudice-major-factor-leave-vote-win-study-a7801676.html

Tory Government's benefit cap is unlawful and causes 'real misery for no good purpose': High Court

Tory Government’s benefit cap is unlawful and causes 'real misery for no good purpose', High Court rules

The Government has been dealt a huge blow as the High Court ruled its benefit cap is unlawful and illegally discriminates against single parents with young children.

Conservative ministers are now likely to be forced to change or scrap one of their flagship welfare policies, which limits the total amount of benefits a household can receive to £23,000 a year in London and £20,000 elsewhere.

...

Ministers had attempted to have the case thrown out but were rejected by the court, which ruled earlier this year that the case must be heard as a matter of urgency. The Government said it was “disappointed” with the latest ruling and will appeal against the decision.

Delivering his verdict, High Court judge Mr Justice Collins said ... “Those in need of welfare benefits fall within the poorest families with children”, he said. “It seems that some 3.7 million children live in poverty and, as must be obvious, the cap cannot but exacerbate this. The need for alternative benefits to make up shortfalls is hardly conducive to the desire to incentivise work and so not provide benefits. There is powerful evidence that very young children are particularly sensitive to environmental influences. Poverty can have a very damaging effect on children under the age of five.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/benefit-cap-judicial-review-welfare-payments-government-loses-lawsuit-court-case-judge-misery-a7802286.html
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